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Why Netflix is costly for Indians

Pic of Netflix screen
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Netflix is the single most streaming service that revolutionized television watching. It is the most popular streaming service in the world for a reason. Some Internet service providers often cache popular programs for smooth playback. According to Statista, Netflix holds 75% of all streaming user base in US followed by Youtube at 55%. There is a talk that Netflix is quite costly to afford for Indians.

Ever since Netflix started its journey in India, there seems to be no good progress. Indians watch tv programs a lot. T series says it all. Yet, Netflix doesn’t sell much.

The reason for gaining no momentum is allegedly the cost at which it is being offered. Why is that Netflix is costly for Indians.

Price sensitive markets find Netflix costly

Netflix costly India

Like many Asian countries, India is a price-sensitive market. Indians are generally likely to go with value for money products. That doesn’t mean they always buy cheap products. For the same reason, auto manufacturers like Suzuki and Hyundai do a lot of research on pricing and mostly, they get it right. Apple has recently opened a manufacturing plant in India making the price cheaper. During the sale, iPhones were selling like hotcakes. Speaking of iPhones, ever wondered if iPhone 8 makes any sense in 2020? Check here to know more.

Mobile only Netflix Plan

Coming back to our topic, Netflix in India starts at Rs 199 ($2.8) a month as a mobile-only subscription. The price is fantastic but wait. Another survey by statista says that in reality, 70% watch Netflix on a large tv screen than a puny 5-inch screen. Also, note that the service is limited to an SD resolution of 480p and one screen. Although 480p is enough for most mobile screens, the upscaling capability of low and mid-tier phones is not as good as flagships. When the competitors of netflix offer 4k and HDR for far less price, you will get only 480p Standard definition. Psychologically, this is enough to assume that Netflix is costly for Indians. As expected, anything like the mobile-only plan is unavailable for a tv.

1080p and UHD plans

The second plan offers 1080p at Rs 649 ($9) for 2 screens. Mind you, you will get no access to HDR with this plan. Today, 4k HDR TVs are available for cheap and even have Netflix built-in. Netflix is also aggressively pushing 4k on its original content. As said earlier, competitors offer more for significantly less money. Thus, this plan just doesn’t make sense. Netflix in India is indeed a costly affair.

Ultra HD HDR is available for Rs 799 ($11.2) a month for one account with 4 screens. With 4k HDR quality, you will need faster internet with higher FUP, which shoots up the Internet costs. Despite the growing library, 4k HDR in Netflix is less in number for all the money being charged. 

Competition for Netflix India is super aggressive

Netflix streaming
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Netflix isn’t even the first streaming service launched in India.

 The competition was already high. To be in the market even telecom operators started to offer content. Hence India has Jiocinema, Airtel Tv, etc, Telecoms didn’t stop there. They offer subscriptions like Hotstar, prime videos free of cost with their plans. Cutthroat competition made an Indian media company, the times group, to buy the popular MX player just to offer streaming services.

Let me list down some of the main competitors and their monthly subscription charges.

  • Amazon prime videos – Rs 129 ($1.8) or Rs 83.25 ($1.16) if paid annually.
  • Apple tv+ – Rs 99 ($1.4)
  • Hotstar – Rs 299 ($ 4.2) or Rs 83.25 ($1.16) if paid annually.
  • Sony liv – Rs 99 ($1.4) or ($ 0.58) if paid annually.
  • ZEE5 – Rs 99 ($1.4) or Rs 83.25 ($1.16) if paid annually.

Other notable players are

  • Jio cinemas – Free for Jio cellular subscribers.
  • Airtel TV – free for Airtel cellular subscribers.
  • SunNXT – Rs 50 ($0.7) or Rs 40 ($0.56) if paid annually.
  • Voot – Rs 199 ($2.8)
  • Hooq – Rs 89 ($1.25) or Rs 37.5 ($0.5 ) if paid annually.
  • Alt Balaji – Rs 100 ($1.4) or Rs 25 ($0.35) if subscribed annually.
  • Hungama – Rs 99 ($1.39) including their music services
  • MX player – free
  • Eros Now 49 ($0.69) or Rs 33 ($ 0.46) if subscribed annually
  • Spuul – Rs 99 ($ 1.39)- Rs 83.25 ($1.16) if paid annually.

The main competitors of Netflix are amazon prime videos, Hotstar, Sony Liv, and Zee5. Hotstar has a huge library of local and international content. Both Hotstar and sony offers India’s popular sport, cricket, live for streaming. These apps also have a few programs available for free of cost. Amazon Prime comes with the following services.

  • Prime Videos
  • prime music
  • Limited Kindle library
  • Free deliveries on eligible orders
  • Amazon pay app access with 2% cashback on all purchases through it

all these for Rs 129 ($1.8) or Rs 83.25 ($1.16) if paid annually. Even cable and satellite TVs are cheap in India. The service offered by Netflix is not even close to others for what you pay. This makes Netflix a costly affair for Indians.

Let’s put things into perspective

The Netflix Full HD plan costing Rs 649 a month is significantly higher than the annual subscription of zee5.

The Netflix UltraHD plan costing Rs 799 a month is still higher than the Prime video, apple tv+, hot star, sony liv, and Zee5 combined and undiscounted. Annual plans are even cheaper.

Won’t you think twice before subscribing to netflix?

I might wonder if you didn’t think subscription charges of Netflix in India is low compared to US counterparts. Yes, it is. But, we need to see a bigger picture here.

The economy of India

Nexflix is not economic
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As per the report by economic times, it’s shocking to know as much as 45% of workers in India earn below Rs 10,000 ($140) a month. Another study says the average salary of Indians is about Rs 20,000 ($300). A junior software engineer earns about Rs 18,000 ($252) a month. Payscale lists the average salary for IT engineers in India is Rs 42,203 ($591) ( In contrast, the average salary of the USA is about $4000 (Rs 2,85,000).

If you’re an Indian who owns a 4k tv, would you spend your full one month salary for a year of Netflix 4k HDR? Even for the software engineers Rs 799 a month is about 5% of his monthly income. By this logic, how many Americans will spend $200 on Netflix each month?

The issue didn’t end here.

Scattered programs across all services

Even if I pay for Netflix, It is unlikely I can live with it alone in India unless I stick to their TV shows. Because prequels and sequels of movies are scattered across different streaming services. For example, terminator genesis can be watched on Netflix but Terminator 2, 3 are missing. Similarly, mission impossible rogue nation is available in Netflix but not their prequels. Either I should rent those movies from services like iTunes or subscribe to another streaming service. Not an ideal solution.


Netflix has a variety of tons of content to watch. But, at these prices, not all Indians can think of it. Isn’t it better to have a moderate price and more customers than at a higher price and a very finite number of customers? After all, these are services and they should benefit as many people as possible. I hope Netflix will bring the prices down for the Indian subcontinent leaving many in Joy.

Thanks for reading.

Vignesh sathiaraj

Aju Vignesh Sathiaraj Padma is a mechanical and audio engineer. He is a person who loves technology and things. He is also an audiophile and loves to listen to audio gears. He is an avid writer and loves to blog.

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